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Icosahedron Ornament Balls Tutorial

I’ve got an icosahedron ornament balls tutorial to share with you today. These ornaments are super easy and fun to build with just twenty circles, glue, and some ribbon.

icosahedron ornament balls tutorial

These ornaments can be made for Christmas or really any time of year!

Icosahedron Ornament Ball

I actually had a guest teacher for this lesson.

Sarah Carter and Sister

My sister is studying to be an art teacher, and I know she is going to be a great one. Her college semester ended a few weeks before the end of our school year, so she took this as an opportunity to come and visit my classroom and my students.

Icosahedron Ornament Balls Tutorial


To create these icosahedron ornament balls, you will need several different supplies.

Circle Punch

The main supply you will need is 20 circles per ornament that you want to create.

Scrapbook Paper Cut Into Circles

If you are only making a single icosahedron ornament ball, you could probably get away with cutting out your circles by hand. It will still be a tedious task, but it shouldn’t take you too long.

If you plan to do this ornament project with students, you will definitely want to invest in a circle punch. My sister used a 2-1/4″ circle punch to punch out the circles for our ornaments.

2-1/4" Circle Punch

Any size circle punch will work, however. Larger circles will produce larger ornaments. Smaller circles will produce smaller ornaments.

Colorful Paper to Cut Circles From

My sister punched the circles we used for our ornaments out of random leftover scrapbook paper and photo mat booklets.

If you have scrapbook paper already lying around, that is probably going to be the cheapest option.

Photo Mats and Circle Punch

If you need to buy paper, my sister recommends these photo mat booklets that you can purchase at Walmart for around three dollars.

She prefers the photo mats to the scrapbook paper because the small size makes manipulating the circle punch much easier.

My sister and I originally learned to make these icosahedron ornaments in our 7th grade pre-algebra class. Mrs. Sellers would have her students bring in a stack of old Christmas cards each year.

We would cut out our circles from these old Christmas cards and turn them into Christmas ornaments to hang on our tree.

Cardstock to Create Equilateral Triangle Template

You will need some cardstock to create an equilateral triangle template to match the size of your circle punch. The points of the equilateral triangle should lie on the circumference of the paper circles.

Equilateral Triangle Template for Icosahedron Ornament Balls Tutorial

Curling Ribbon

Each ornament will require a piece of curling ribbon to create a hanger at the top of the ornament.

Curling Ribbon

You can pick up a selection of different colors of curling ribbon at Dollar Tree. You could also use regular ribbon if you already have that on hand.

Glue Sticks

The last supply you will need to have on hand to create an icosahedron ornament ball is some glue sticks. I prefer glue sticks for this project instead of liquid glue due to the fact that it dries much faster.

Supplies for Icosahedron Ornament Balls

Preparing Your Ornament Supplies

Make sure you have twenty circles punched for each ornament that you plan to create.

Next, prepare your equilateral triangle template. The size of this template depends on the size of your circles.

The points of the equilateral triangle must rest on the edge of your circles.

equilateral triangle template on circle.

Lay the template on top of each circle (design facing up) and begin folding over the edges.

folding the scrapbook paper around the equilateral triangle template.

After folding over two of the edges, it is usually easiest to remove the template before folding over the final edge.  

folding the scrapbook paper around the equilateral triangle template.

This small step reduces the chance that your triangles will not match up when gluing your icosahedron ornament ball together.

folding the scrapbook paper around the equilateral triangle template.

A small gap in the center of triangle is fine.  Gaps on the vertices of the triangles are bad.  

circles folded into equilateral triangles.

Pretty soon, you’ll have a pile of triangles.  Remember, you need 20 of them!

pieces to make icosahedron ornament balls.

Assembling the Icosahedron Ornament Ball

After lots of cutting and folding, it’s finally time to assemble our icosahedrons!

My sister made two partial pieces to demonstrate the construction process to my students. I thought this was a brilliant idea.

Top and Bottom Domes of Icosahedron Ornament Ball

She’s going to definitely make a great art teacher!

First, take five of your circles and glue them together to form a dome.

Top of Icosahedron Ornament Ball

You are actually going to need to make a dome for the top of the ball and a dome for the bottom of the ball.  

students building icosahedron ornament balls.

The top dome needs a curling ribbon hanger.  Take a piece of curling ribbon, knot it, and place it in the center of the dome before gluing the last two triangles together.

Then, build a similar dome (without the hanger) for the bottom of the ornament.

After using five pieces to make the top dome and five pieces to make the bottom dome, you should have ten pieces left.

strip of equilateral triangles put together when making icosahedron ornament ball.

Glue these ten pieces together, inverting every other triangle, so that the pieces form a line with a flat top and flat bottom.

strip of equilateral triangles put together when making icosahedron ornament ball.

My sister glued five pieces together to demonstrate the process to the class.

The best way to go about this next step is to turn over your long strip of triangles and apply glue to the top or bottom of the strip.  

Sarah Carter building icosahedron ornament ball.

Then, begin attaching each piece with glue on it to a section of one of your domes.

applying glue to equilateral triangles.

Finally, add glue to the remaining pieces and attach the other dome.

My students were so excited to proudly display their finished ornaments.

Icosahedron Ornament Ball

I had to join in on the fun and create my own icosahedron ornament ball. So fun!

Sarah Carter holding icosahedron ornament ball.
Row of Icosahedron Ornament Balls

Ideas for Adapting this Project

If you wanted to make this ornament project more math-related, you could have students cut their circles out of colored cardstock and decorate each circle to reflect something that they learned this year.

You could take Tina Cardone’s Fan Posters Project and turn it into Fan Icosahedron Ornament Balls.  Pass out circle templates and have each student write affirming statements about their classmates on a circle.  

Sort the circles by student.  Then, have the students assemble their own ornament ball that is covered with words about them.  

I could also see this as a culminating geometry project.  Each triangle could be decorated with a different theorem?  Or geometric vocabulary word and illustration?  

Perhaps this could be turned into an activity of geometric construction?  Use a ruler and compass to construct the necessary pieces without a template?

Shaun Carter

Wednesday 4th of June 2014

This seems like a great way to introduce Euler's formula for 3D shapes: the number of faces and edges become obvious when they're the number of circles and the number of 'glued together curvey bits'. I've had students make Icosahedra (is that right?) out of nets before, but they're always a bit too fiddly and definitely don't look as good as yours!

Sarah Carter (@mathequalslove)

Wednesday 4th of June 2014

Ooooh! I never thought of introducing Euler's formula this way. What a great idea!


Sunday 1st of June 2014

I have done these with 8 circles in the past and used it as an intro activity at the beginning of the year where the students answer 8 get to know you questions in the center triangle area. Great project!

Sarah Carter (@mathequalslove)

Monday 2nd of June 2014

I like this idea! And, only having 8 circles would make this a much less time consuming task! With 20 circles, I had students struggling to finish in our 50-minute class periods. Thanks for sharing!

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